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Tax us more, say US billionaires to presidential candidates

United States' most privileged heirs alongside entrepreneurs who have made spectacular fortunes in real estate, finance and Silicon Valley.

New York

THEY are an eclectic bunch - some of the United States' most privileged heirs alongside entrepreneurs who have made spectacular fortunes in real estate, finance and Silicon Valley.

But collectively, they are united on the need to tax more of the richest Americans' assets.

"Tax us more!" was the message on Monday from about 20 super-wealthy Americans who urged presidential candidates to back higher taxes on the wealthiest to confront climate change and other priorities.

"America has a moral, ethical and economic responsibility to tax our wealth more," said the group, which included George Soros, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, descendants of Walt Disney and the owners of the Hyatt hotel chain.

"A wealth tax could help address the climate crisis, improve the economy, improve health outcomes, fairly create opportunity, and strengthen our democratic freedoms. Instituting a wealth tax is in the interest of our republic."

The signers pointed out that fellow billionaire Warren Buffett has said that he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary.

The letter alluded to support among Democratic presidential candidates for higher taxes on the super- wealthy, including Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke.

"We are writing to call on all candidates for president, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, to support a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest one per cent of Americans - on us," according to the letter, a copy of which was posted online on Monday.

"The next dollar of new tax revenue should come from the most financially fortunate, not from middle-income and lower-income Americans."

The letter noted broad bipartisan support for taxing the super- wealthy, saying "some ideas are too important for America to be part of only a few candidates' platforms".

It praised a proposal by Senator Elizabeth Warren that would raise taxes on those with more than US$50 million, a measure expected to affect the 75,000 wealthiest families.

She proposed a 2 per cent tax on assets of US$50 million or more, and a further 1 per cent on assets over US$1 billion. It is estimated to generate nearly US$3 trillion in tax revenue over 10 years.

The letter was signed by 18 people representing 11 families, plus one anonymous person. Many in the group have been associated with progressive initiatives on issues such as climate change and the growing wealth gap.

Of about 40 countries, the US is the sixth highest in terms of wealth concentration, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Taxing the super-wealthy "would slow the growing concentration of wealth that undermines the stability and integrity of our republic", the letter said.

"Today, major policies seldom come to pass without the prior support of wealthy elites or other wealthy interests. Division and dissatisfaction are exacerbated by inequality, leading to higher levels of distrust in democratic institutions - and worse."

However, the wealth tax is not embraced by all Democrats. Some have argued that it would be difficult to objectively assess the value of wealth such as artwork and jewels, or illiquid assets.

There are also concerns that such a tax is unconstitutional because the federal government is prohibited from taxing property, only income. AFP, BLOOMBERG